Andy Murray is Britain’s greatest sportsperson of all time – that will be his legacy

Kevin Palmer
Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic with their Wimbledon trophies
Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic with their Wimbledon trophies in 3013

There was an inevitability about Andy Murray’s decision to pull out of the singles competition at Wimbledon a little over a week after he underwent back surgery, with the last-minute nature of the announcement a sad epitaph to one of the final chapters of his story.

Media announcements confirming the withdrawal of a player from a tennis tournament tend to be brief and lacking in emotion, but what will be one of the final announcements of Murray’s wonderful tennis career was laced with sadness.

“Unfortunately, despite working incredibly hard on his recovery since his operation just over a week ago, Andy has taken the very difficult decision not to play the singles this year,” read the statement.

“As you can imagine, he is extremely disappointed but has confirmed that he will be playing in the doubles with Jamie and looks forward to competing at Wimbledon for the last time.”

The pain Murray is enduring from the back surgery he underwent the weekend before Wimbledon is nothing compared to the agony he is going through to miss his final appearance in singles on the Centre Court stage that means so much to him.

This is where won an Olympic gold medal after arguably his finest performance as he destroyed Roger Federer in the final of the 2012 London Games.

It was also the scenes of his tearful speech following his defeat in the Wimbledon final a few weeks before that Olympic glory and then his two magnificent wins at the All England Club in 2013 and 2016.

Throw in a 2012 US Open win, Davis Cup glory in 2015, a year-end No 1 success in the midst of an era dominated by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic and you have a body of work that will ensure Murray is etched into tennis history as one of the true greats of the sport.

Those who have suggested Murray has tarnished his legacy by continuing his sporting story long beyond what appears to be its natural lifespan are disrespecting a legend who deserves acclaim.

He hasn’t won as many Grand Slams as Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, but those three are freaks of this or any other sport.

For Murray to have achieved what he has done while those three giants were in their prime makes his achievement all the more commendable, with his one-time agent Patricio Apey summing up the mood of the tennis community as they reflect on Murray’s story.

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“Andy has had an incredibly respectful career. He has done things his own way. As far as I know, he has never ever, ever been driven by money,” Apey told Tennis365 in an exclusive interview at The Boodles tennis tournament.

“He played and still plays tennis for the love of the game, for competing.

“When I was working with him, he was like that with everything. If we played backgammon, cards, golf, or anything… he desperately wanted to win and compete.

“You see that thread in many athletes. Not all of them have it, but for those that do, it is a privilege to be part of their journey. Andy has that running through him.

“Seeing him in the players lounge at tournaments, he is so friendly, he is always incredibly kind to my son and he has earned the right to do whatever he wants.

“The love of the competition is what has driven Andy and that is something you can’t teach. It’s something you are born with.

“You can teach people how to compete, but to have the drive and passion Andy Murray has to compete on a tennis court is something you are born with and it’s very special.”

The debate over who is the greatest British sportsperson of all time will be skewed by personal preference, with Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton and some of Britain’s Olympic heroes contenders for that title.

Yet in a sport that is truly global and in an era that was tougher than any in the history of tennis, Murray rose to the top and was the man to conquer one of the ultimate challenges in British sport.

The first homegrown Wimbledon champion in 77 years deserves to be lauded for his achievements, with a trophy to sit alongside fellow British great Fred Perry at the entrance to the All England Club the least he now deserves.

While this may not be the way Murray wanted to bow out of Wimbledon, no one will remember the end of a story that has been so glorious.